Negligence in the healthcare industry can lead to years or even decades of suffering. Also known as medical malpractice, this far-too-common problem causes not only pain or discomfort, but also emotional distress.
What's more, victims suffer rapidly accruing medical expenses. These can be mitigated with help from personal injury damages, but many obstacles may lie in the way. One of the most common challenges? Timing. It's often difficult to discern when medical malpractice took place or how quickly a claim should be filed.
To that end, we've provided a thorough overview of the statute of limitations for medical malpractice and how it plays into Ohio cases involving negligence.
The statute of limitations is a strict deadline referencing when exactly plaintiffs can initiate legal proceedings, such as personal injury lawsuits. Once the specified time has run out, it's no longer possible to file a claim or the claim will almost certainly be dismissed from Court.
Statutes of limitations exist for both criminal and civil cases. In civil proceedings, these are meant to protect defendants from unfair legal action that could otherwise occur decades after a particular accident. Furthermore, these statutes reflect the degradation of evidence over time. Most cases are best handled shortly after the incident occurs, as this is when evidence and witness testimony will be most accurate.
For medical malpractice, statutes of limitation determine when harmed patients can file claims against healthcare professionals suspected of causing negligence-related harm.
At this point, you may be wondering: How long is the statute of limitations for medical malpractice? This differs from one state to the next and even between patients. We provide much-needed clarification below.
The Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice in Ohio
Ohio maintains a strict statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits: They must be filed within a one-year period of a medical error. This requirement is outlined in detail in the Ohio Revised Code Section 2305.113.
The one-year statute of limitations applies not only to physician visits and surgical procedures, but also to dental, optometric, and even chiropractic care.
An important caveat: The eligible period for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit begins as soon as one of the following circumstances occurs:
- The injury is discovered (or when, according to the court, the injury should have been discovered)
- The relationship between the doctor (or medical provider) and the patient ends
In addition to this one-year deadline, the state sets an overarching four-year period. Often referred to as the statute of repose, this is exclusively dependent on the passage of time, rather than when the negligence-based injury "accrues."
Ohio's statute of repose is most relevant when the injury isn't discovered for several years. For example: A patient with a soft tissue injury that isn't diagnosed for three years after a medical incident could potentially still file a malpractice lawsuit. In this situation, the one-year statute of limitations would go into effect years after the original injury, but the plaintiff may be forced to file within the overarching four-year deadline.
How Does the Statute of Limitations Come Into Play in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
Statutes of limitation can be difficult to abide by in medical malpractice cases, as the date on which the negligence occurred is not always obvious. What's more, patients often do not discover that they've been treated negligently until several months or even years have passed.
Given these complications and the high stakes of your medical malpractice case, it's important to seek counsel from a trusted Ohio medical malpractice lawyer as soon as you suspect that you've suffered from medical negligence. Your lawyer can help you determine when exactly the clock began running with the Ohio statute of limitations, as well as the role of the state’s statute of repose.
Are There Any Exceptions to This Period of Limitation?
It's difficult to bypass the Ohio statute of limitations, but there are a few exceptions for cases involving medical negligence. These include:
The most noteworthy exception to Ohio's medical malpractice statute of limitations involves minors. The Ohio Revised Code deems them to hold "legal disabilities" and therefore, are exempt from the statute of limitations until that disability has been "removed." In other words, until the minor in question turns 18. At this point, the one-year statute of limitations and four-year statute of repose can officially begin.
Ohio maintains a very specific exception to its four-year deadline: when a surgical error results in an object being left inside the patient. In this situation, the victim can still file for malpractice several years after the incident in question.
This exception exists because foreign objects are frequently discovered long after negligence occurs. In these rare situations, a modified statute of limitations should be followed: Claims must be initiated within one year of the foreign object's discovery, or one year after what the court deems the date of reasonable discovery.
Wrongful Death Actions
Wrongful death holds a distinct statute of limitations: two years from the date of death — or, if relevant, two years after the date on which the wrongful nature of the death was discovered. These damages are only available if the deceased individual could have reasonably pursued a medical malpractice claim if they lived.
Are There Ever Changes to the Medical Malpractice Statute?
Jurisdictions have occasionally been known to adjust statutes of limitation, although this is exceedingly rare for medical malpractice. Far more likely are changes to the dates referenced in a specific case.
For example, as additional evidence becomes available, the date of discovery (or the reasonable possibility of discovery) may change.
When Should You Reach Out to a Medical Malpractice Attorney?
Yes, there's a statute of limitations for medical malpractice in Ohio. And it's strict.
The sooner you have a trusted legal representative in your corner, the less likely you are to miss key deadlines. What's more, an early response will streamline the discovery process, making it easier for your lawyer to secure crucial evidence that supports your case.
Ready to move forward with your Ohio malpractice case? The Moore Law Firm can help you take that important first step. We have a strong track record in medical malpractice and are eager to help you secure the damages you deserve. Contact us today to learn more.